He believes that proven talents should be brought back into the national team squad in the build-up to the World Cup
The next couple of years will be crucial for the Indian hockey team with the Tokyo Olympics, 2022 Asian Games and the 2023 World Cup looming large.
The pandemic did bring the international hockey calendar to a halt for nearly six months before the action resumed with the Pro League in October 2020. One of the major concerns for Team India will be to find replacements for their veteran players.
India is not short of young talents. The junior hockey team are currently getting back into their groove at the Sports Authority of India (SAI) facility in Bengaluru. However, the international calendar for junior hockey is still up in the air.
And former India hockey coach Harendra Singh believes that proven talents like Harjeet Singh and Devindar Walmiki should be brought back into the national team squad in the build-up to the World Cup.
Harendra, who oversaw a period as a coach with the Indian hockey team where they bagged a silver medal at the 2018 Men's Hockey Champions Trophy, also believes that veteran players like Birendra Lakra and Rupinder Pal Singh will not be around till the Asian Games or World Cup.
"The current junior men's team is short on experience and it will take time before they can move to the senior level. So who will fill the vacuum of players like Lakra and Rupinder? It can be only those who have some experience," Harendra told the Times of India.
"According to me, Harjeet should be called back to the camp, and also Devindar Walmiki. They are good assets. You won't expect Rupinder Pal and Birender Lakra to be there for the 2022 Asian Games and 2023 World Cup," he added.
Midfielder Harjeet, 24, carries the experience of leading the Indian squad to 2016 Men's Junior World Cup. Under his captaincy, the team remained unbeaten throughout the tournament and won the gold medal.
The 28-year-old Walmiki, who also plays in the midfield, comes from a family of hockey players. His brother Yuvraj Walmiki has also represented India. Devindar was also named in the Indian squad for 2016 Olympics.
Walmiki and Harjeet, though overlooked by India recently, did impress in the Dutch League, considered the holy grail by many. They earned plaudits with H.O.C. Gazellen-Combinatie, or HGC, one of the oldest and prestigious clubs in the Hoofdklasse, the top-division Dutch league last season.
Harendra Singh believes that the duo should at least be given a chance to impress coach Graham Reid in the national camp.
“Harjeet and Devindar deserve to be in the camp. Whether they make it to the final squad or not, the coach will decide that. I don't think the coaches have got a chance to have a good look at them,” he concluded.